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All-new Equus has 230 horses

This is the all-new Equus limousine, the most ambitious car in Hyundai’s history.

It’s a big saloon that will mix it with the Lexus LS430 and maybe even steal a few Mercedes S-class sales. And it will take on the prestige Japanese and German cars on their terms, with rear-wheel drive.

The Equus epitomizes Hyundai’s ambition. The Koreans want to muscle in on the world’s five biggest car makers by the end of this decade. That’s why Hyundai has taken its UK imports in-house, to try and double annual sales here to 80,000 by 2008.

To help meet that target, Hyundai dealers could do with adding the all-new Equus to their portfolios. Today’s car is currently sold only in Korea. It measures just over five metres long, runs Mitsubishi V8 and V8 engines and, like all Hyundais, it’s front-wheel drive. Not so the next generation, Hyundai insiders admit. “We will launch rear-wheel drive cars around 2007,” said one.

Expect Hyundai’s 230bhp 3.3-litre V6 to figure, as well as bent-eight power.

Last year, bullish bosses were talking about launching the rear-wheel drive flagship under a new, premium brand, like Toyota’s Lexus or Nissan’s Infiniti badges. However, the multi-million dollar cost of this means a spin-off brand probably won’t happen until after 2010.

Nonetheless, the new Equus reeks of Hyundai’s fast-improving quality. The gadget-packed dash, with its chrome-ringed dials, central ’screen and high grade plastics, wouldn’t be out of place in an Infiniti.

The exterior design develops the new Sonata’s clean design theme, with a BMW-style kink in the rear pillar, twin exhausts and a very big, very Korean chrome grille.

This will be the first rear-wheel drive Hyundai in the line up, running V6 and V8 engines

Big butch shape, clean, sheet metal and details in the mould of the Audi-esque new Sonata

Plenty of room for five in the 5m-long saloon, surrounded by quality trim and gadgets galore

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